Rodriguez embraces new team, new role

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HOUSTON -- Wandy Rodriguez took a familiar drive Thursday afternoon. Walked through familiar doors. Saw familiar faces.

But, at one point, he took a different turn in the tunnels of Minute Maid Park. Walked into a different clubhouse. Pitched off a different bullpen mound. Same stadium. New team. Worlds apart.

"It's a hard situation for me, but I understand everything," Rodriguez, the Pirates newest pitcher, said Thursday, his first day with the organization after the Pirates acquired him from the Houston Astros for three minor leaguers Tuesday night.

He remained in Houston until the Pirates arrived and met his new teammates and manager Thursday. Rodriguez left a team that was 31 games under .500 heading into Thursday for a team aiming for its first winning season and playoff appearance in the past 20 years. And his first start in black and gold will be on the same mound he has called home for his eight major league seasons.

Rodriguez's debut as a Pirate will come Saturday, with originally scheduled starter Erik Bedard moving to Monday.

"I told him he doesn't have to be the ace in this staff," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think it was very important he understood that. He's one of five in the rotation."

In Houston, he was the ace of a young staff -- and a young team all around. With the Pirates, there are more veterans in the starting rotation than on the Astros' roster.

"I'll try to help this team, playing really good right now," Rodriguez said. "I'll try to help because we need to make the playoffs. I'll try to make it the best I can every time I have the opportunity."

Correia to bullpen

To make room for Rodriguez in the rotation, the Pirates moved Kevin Correia to the bullpen. The move was disappointing to the veteran pitcher, who had won his past six starts.

"Usually you don't win six starts in a row and then get taken out of the rotation," he said. "But that's a decision they made, and it's just something I'm going to have to live with for now."

Correia was the opening day starter in 2011 and was 8-6 this season with a 4.24 ERA.

"This is one of the harder decisions we've had to make," Hurdle said. "First time in your career you win six straight games, you get moved to the bullpen. I'm wrestling with that one."

In the bullpen, Correia will pitch in long-relief situations, which will allow Brad Lincoln to move into a late-innings role.

"Starting pitching is what I want to do," Correia said. "That's how I think I best help the team. I'm not happy about it, but it is what it is. If I need to pitch out of the bullpen to help us win, then I'll do that."

The Pirates likely will try to trade Correia before the non-waiver trade deadline next week.

Gone and mostly forgotten

Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the 19-inning marathon game that ended when home plate umpire Jerry Meals called Julio Lugo safe at home plate as the Pirates lost to the Braves. To the Pirates, the memory is much more distant than 366 days.

"That's long gone," Garrett Jones said. "That's long in the past. That's last year stuff, and last year's over."

Catcher Michael McKenry, who applied the tag Meals said missed Lugo's leg, remembers the night but never thinks about it, adding, "After that night, I remember Hurdle saying, 'Hey, way to battle. Great job today. Lost a tough one,' " McKenry said. "We moved on as a team."



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